Dialect

A Tale of Two Cities

by

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities: Dialect 1 key example

Book 2, Chapter 1
Explanation and Analysis—The Flopping Aggerwayter:

Dickens uses dialect as a characterization tool to reveal the class backgrounds of his characters. In A Tale of Two Cities, this technique is most prevalent in the speech patterns of Jerry Cruncher, the odd-job-man of Tellson’s bank.

In Book Two, Chapter One, Cruncher calls his wife “Aggerwayter," which is his cockney version of “aggravator.” The most aggravating thing about Mrs. Cruncher, according to Mr. Cruncher, is her proclivity for praying, or as he calls it, “flopping.” During one of the couple’s frequent fights, he asks his wife, “'What do you mean by flopping yourself down and praying agin me?'” The ability to speak standard English, also known as “the Queen’s English,” was a mark of wealth and prestige during the Victorian Era, since it signaled that the speaker had received an education. Dickens often conflates high-class speech with intelligence and moral goodness, so Jerry Cruncher’s dialect makes him a comic, untrustworthy figure.